Pentax Optio 555 review
This is a great little camera, provided you don't have quality control problems. It has virtually every feature you could want in a digital camera except IR assist light and a flash hot shoe. Takes excellent photos, although probably a tiny bit grainier than I've seen from a Canon G3. I bought mine new/used from a large frame art-photo buff who wanted to see what the digital craze is all about and after taking 100 or so photos, decided he didn't like the quality of pictures this Pentax takes. However, I think he was getting grainy photos because when I recevied it, he had turned up the internal sharpness control - the graininess disappeared and it started taking excellent photos when I reset the sharpness it to neutral.
I've found that it's not too hard to oversaturate the colors, with, for instance, macros of flowers. If you go into the clear and easy-to-access menu system, you can lower the saturation level and that helps a lot.
This little camera even comes with a histogram function, which I friend of mine tried to teach me to use (his $1000 Olympus 8080 has one too) and it seems like it will be very useful once I get the hang of it.
Maybe a competitor for the Optio 555 has come out in the past half year, but when I bought mine in March 2004, it was truly the battery king of digital cameras. It had/has the longest-lasting battery of any digital camera on the market. I've taken it on week-long vacations, shot 250 photos all with LCD display on, 20% with flash, and the battery level dipped down to halfway drained on its battery life meter. I thought I would miss the NiMH AA batteries from my old Canon A20, but the lithium battery on this Pentax is incredible and if anyone whines about it being a proprietary battery, you should ignore them because they don't know what they're talking about. If you bought an extra battery and didn't use the flash or the LCD display all of the time, I bet you could squeeze close to 1,000 photos out of the two batteries.
For those who are complaining about this camera's looks, you might as well call Halle Berry repulsive or Michael Jordan mediocre. I truly have absolutely no idea how anyone could find this less than an attractive camera, especially with its solid aluminum body. If you want an ugly camera, the new Casio 6mp - now that is one butt-ugly picture taker.
There really isn't any other camera on the market that has the features this one does (except maybe one of the newer Pentax models). It's got way more features and picture quality than any of the compact ones and is about half the size of any prosumer camera with its featureset, except perhaps the Sony DSCV1. It's a third of the size of any camera with more than a 4x optical zoom.
One big problem, and not an uncommon one either, if you read all of these reviews: the sliding lens cover jammed partially open, so that I could neither fully open nor fully close it and my photos had big diagonal slashes across the top left and bottom right corners. Very annoying as it happened on a really nice vacation to the Napa Valley. However, it may be partially my fault, as I was carrying it in the pocket of my shorts and maybe a pen or my keys jammed up against it; if you have one, I recommend carrying it in a case. I sent it in to Pentax's headquarters in Colorado and got it back fixed in around 18 days, not too long, but definitely not the fastest repair in the world either. Service tech was pretty friendly and helpful - no complaints at all there and it has worked perfectly since I got it back. I would have given the Optio 555 a "5" rating for construction, had it not been for this problem.
Also, it's not an inexpensive camera, either, which I took into account for dropping the value a half point. But, as they say, you get what you paid for.